I’m having a new tea on this overcast Monday morning. There’s always several boxes of Numi Organic Tea in the house, but usually the same three. I have to have the Gunpowder Green – Temple of Heaven and the Breakfast Blend – Morning Rise is our standard black tea these days. Then there’s always a box of the Ruby Chai -Spiced Rooibas on hand. When I was at the store yesterday, and was stocking back up, the teas were on sale so I decided to get one of their variety boxes and try a few new ones. Today it’s the White Rose – Velvet Garden and it’s a success. I love rose in my tea and have several herbal blends that I mix up myself that have rose petals in them, both for the flavor and their medicinal and magical benefits. The Numi White Rose Tea has a good amount of rose to it but the white tea still comes through as well. Nicely balanced. A winner on this grey late summer day.
As I look out the window I am seeing more and more color show up on the trees in the neighborhood. One cluster of chloroplasts at a time, the green disappears and the yellows, golds, reds, oranges and browns begin to appear. Soon leaves will be littering the ground and then my bookshelves and tables and counter tops and vases as I collect them and bring them into my home. I can’t resist a pretty leaf or three or thousand. Already I’ve been tempted by the few that have been tossed to the ground early by recent winds. I’m attempting to refrain until after the autumn equinox. Let summer linger a little before I eagerly embrace fall. Though, I have slipped a bit. Three mums came home last week and now adorn my front porch, lighting it up with bright gold, deep rich orange and an even deeper richer red. They stand out against the lime green of their companion Lime Cypress that came home as well. A plant I’ve always admired but never had for my own until now. Two of the mums and the cypress are planted in the ultimate treasure – a lovely large glazed pot that had a little wobble to it, so was marked down 40%! I’ve been wanting a nice glazed pot for my front porch since we moved into this house last fall. And I’ve wanted one off and on forever – whenever I had a spot for one, and sometimes when I didn’t. Tucked in between the mums and cypress are treasures for spring – a few miniature daffodils awaiting the return of the sun to start them growing. Just knowing they are there will help get me through the long wet winter that awaits. But first there is fall.
The change in the season became more apparent to me while up at a mountain lake last weekend, when the temperatures dropped fairly low and there was an obvious crispness in the air that hasn’t yet reached the lowlands. Our first backpacking trip in four years took us up to Janus Lake along the Pacific Crest Trail north of Hwy 2. We found the perfect site right near the lake in the midst of a small cluster of trees. A marshy meadow on one side and more trees and huckleberry bushes on the other. Very few insects were still about, color was more apparent, though many of the huckleberries had more than just begun to set. I can only hope for all the critters’ sake that they get a chance before winter really sets in. Autumn is short in the mountains. The birds were in mixed flocks feeding along the trail and the lake’s edges. Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chipping Sparrows, Townsend Warblers, Brown Creepers, and both Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches chattered and flitted among the trees and shrubs near our camp and along the trails. Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels came to check out our camp, one being so bold to try and climb into my backpack shortly after arriving. Pikas posed on rocks and called out. One came to check me out up close while I sat having a snack along the trail near a large rock slide. Its round eyes in its round head on its round body with cute little round ears – all focused on me, or rather the granola bar I was holding. Ravens were talkative with their loud “cronking” echoing between the mountainsides that the lake was settled between. A White-tailed Ptarmigan, just starting to have more of its winter whites showing among the more mottled summer browns and grays, made its way through the meadow, stopping to gobble the leaves off certain lime colored meadow plants and then grabbing up an insect or two as well, popping its head up from time to time and cocking it just right to look at the lady watching it from among the trees. A lady with a big grin on her face, always happy to have the rare treat of seeing a Ptarmigan. A treat that had become rarer over the last few years as she – I – got to the high elevations less frequently. That backpacking trip was a reminder to get out there more often again, a necessary thing for my wellbeing, for my soul to be refreshed by crisp mountain air far from a road and all the distractions and to-do lists that await back at home.
To-do lists that I’ve been slowly working my way through since returning home. Many things on the list are things that can only be done this time of year. All the preserving, that comes at harvest time – each in its season. Now all lined up on the shelves we set up in the basement – strawberry, raspberry and blackberry jams, peaches and apricots. A little space left on the shelves for the applesauce yet to be made. Maybe some green beans if I break down and deal with my pressure canner again. Then there are the refrigerator pickles we line the back of our fridge with each year. Twenty quarts of fresh picked pickling cucumbers sitting in a brine with plenty of garlic, hot red pepper flakes, dill and onion. Cucumbers and dill we picked from a farm not to far away near a little town called Snohomish. The same farm I’ll most likely visit again if I decide to do the home canned green beans I love so much but dread doing because of the more complicated processing they take and the pressure canner that for some reason I have to manually adjust the pressure on. But I know they are worth it. So I’ll most likely be adding that to my to do list. The to do list I had best get back to now, no more long blog posting to procrastinate all the baking that needs to be done and the house cleaning and the…. oy.
I’ll end this post by sharing the Refrigerator Pickle recipe I use, in case any one else wants to line up the back of their fridge with the worlds most delicious pickles ever.
Refrigerator Pickles – this makes approximately nine quart jars
For the brine:
13 cups water
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sea or kosher salt
For the pickles:
Onions, cut into wedges, a wedge or two for each jar
Garlic, pealed, several for each jar
Red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon per jar (heaping if you like them nice and spicy!)
Fresh dill heads, 2-3 per jar depending on the size
8 pounds pickling cucumbers, washed and cut into spears.
Wash your quart jars and then place the onions, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and dill in each jar. Then pack the cucumbers into the jar nice and tight.
Heat the brine till it just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and using a funnel to pour into the jars, completely cover the cucumbers. Place fresh canning lids on each jar and screw down with canning rings. Place the pickles into the back of the refrigerator and let sit for at least one month before starting to eat. The longer they sit the better they get.
I make about twenty jars and they barely last till the next pickling season. But then we do love us some pickles!